Paint Schoodic

Join Carol L. Douglas at beautiful Acadia National Park, August 6-11, 2017. More details here!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mastering chaos

Francis Bacon is the icon of messy-studio advocates. He was renowned as much for the awful state of his studio as for his brilliant painting, but he did occasionally attempt to clear it. Electrician Mac Robertson was working at Bacon’s studio when he saw the artist disposing of ephemera. He asked to keep it, and thirty years later, sold it for more than a million dollars. There's a lesson in that, but I hardly know what it is. 
For the first time since June I am home without another trip (planned or emergency) on my immediate horizon. It’s autumn and my favorite season to paint, and I will get outside to do that, but my primary goal has to be to pull my studio and home in order for fall.

There is a myth that creatives enjoy working in chaos, but that isn’t true. All people tend to create messes when in the throes of work, but most of them understand that when they are finished, they need to clean them up. Creating order doesn’t come easily to me, but as an adult I’ve learned it’s the only way I can be productive.

Contemporary Australian painter McLean Edwards continues the Bacon tradition in his Sydney studio. If I were his mother, I'd tell him to clean that mess up, and to stop drinking while painting.
I think this idea of the messy artist is a continuation of the myth of artists-as-geniuses, and it actually stops many people from being as productive as they might otherwise be. The vast majority of us do not thrive in chaotic working and living conditions. I’ve been in many of my peers’ studios, and most of them are sensible, organized workrooms. (In some cases, what an outsider perceives as clutter is actually just order in a very small space.)

I would normally “reset” my studio and workshop in the early fall anyway—go through my stock, winnow supplies, and reorganize shelves. For me, chaos effectively blanks out all thinking, and I like the idea of spring and fall cleaning.

To the contrary, note that Jackson Pollock's chaos was pretty much confined to his canvases. 
This year, it’s worse, because my RIT show was pulled for being obscene, and the work ended up stacked in the middle of my studio floor. At a loss about how to put it away in a hurry, I moved it to my bedroom, where it’s still in the way. Until I get it properly stored, there’s no easy living in my house.

On top of that, there are three months of mail to go through, and three months of dirt to vacuum. (My family did a decent job of maintaining order, but the finer points of housekeeping are beyond them.)

Message me if you want information about next year’s classes and workshops.

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